Renewable Energy in Action - The Technologies Changing the Way Your Home is Powered
One of the biggest negative factors involved in climate change is the burning of fossil fuels to create energy, both the energy to power vehicles and the energy that creates electricity. The excess of carbon dioxide such activities have pumped into the air in the last 50 years has increased the CO2 concentration in the Earth's atmosphere by 30% and that excess has been the catalyst for many of the negative effects of climate change. In addition, the supplies of these fossil fuels themselves are finally dwindling, so the need to increase the use of renewable energy technologies is urgent.
In the case of transportation strides are being made in the technology behind electric cars. Tesla Motors, the New Jersey, US based company headed by entrepreneur Elon Musk, has become the first company to successfully market a mass market electric car and other large vehicle manufacturers - BMW, General Motors and even Porsche - have their own versions ready for sale as well.
An even larger problem though is the electricity that is needed to power homes and businesses. The good news however is, that although the rate of progress is varying all over the world - with the most progress being made in Western Europe and North America - more and more energy companies are adopting renewable energy sources to provide power to their customers. Here is a little about some of the most used technologies:
Hydroelectric power - the use of water to generate electricity - is one of the oldest renewable energy sources in general use. As of 2012, the last time figures were complied, hydroelectricity now provides 20% of the world's electricity.
Although it is a renewable source of power there are drawbacks attached to expanding the use of hydropower even further. The dams that must be created to force running water over turbines to generate power are expensive and time consuming to build. There can also be significant negative impacts made on the environment, especially for the fish living in the waters that are dammed.
The use of wind power - harnessed by those big white windmills you may have seen dotting the landscape - is the fastest growing form of renewable energy in the US and its implementation is increasing in Europe as well.
Again, wind power is hardly a new idea, windmills have been around for centuries but it fell out of favor as the expense of constructing windmills is not insignificant. With the widespread reintroduction of windmills - or wind turbines as they are properly termed - there have been concerns raised about the effects on the landscape of these massive structures have and also their impact on the local habitats.
Solar power, after a period of stagnation when many people considered it 'hippie technology' and little more, is progressing again. In many ways solar power is the ideal form of renewable energy as it is clean, requires far less construction to operate and can be implemented by individuals themselves.
There are obstacles that are hard to overcome though. Very few areas of the world can boast that they get enough continuous sunlight to provide an adequate amount of energy to consistently power a whole building, meaning that a more conventional energy source is still required as a 'back up' on cloudy days. More efficient energy collection cells are being developed though that may overcome this problem.
While none of these sources of energy are perfect they are all an improvement, in terms of environmental impact, over the continued use of fossil fuels and it is important that the big power companies continue to expand their use for the good of everyone, and for the planet.